Mikie Mahtook had a career season for the Detroit Tigers last year, but a slow spring has us wondering: how long of a leash does he have if this continues?
One of the Detroit Tigers biggest surprises last season was the emergence of outfielder Mikie Mahtook. A former first-round pick, Mahtook came to the Tigers after an ugly .195/.231/.292 line with the Rays in 2016.
He was expected to compete for a bench role, but more than likely end up at Triple-A. Instead, Mahtook took off after a slow start, slashing .276/.330/.457 with 12 home runs and six stolen bases. That strong performance earned Mahtook a chance to open 2018 as Detroit’s starting left fielder.
While it won’t affect his starting role for now, it has not been a pretty spring for the 28-year-old. Mahtook is currently hitting .154 (6-for-39) with one stolen base, three walks and 11 strikeouts.
The 11 strikeouts in 39 at-bats is particularly concerning. Part of Mahtook’s development as a hitter was cutting down his strikeouts. He posted a 27% strikeout rate in 2015, followed by a staggering 34.7% rate in 2016. Mahtook was able to cut that down dramatically last season, only striking out in 20.8% of his at-bats.
It’s important to not get too wrapped up in spring training stats. Mahtook had a really slow start last season, hitting .194 in March/April and .179 in May. It’s possible he’s just getting his slow start out of the way and will go on to post a .280 season with 20 home runs and 10 stolen bases. While that is best case scenario for the Tigers and Mahtook, they do need to be ready for the possibility that 2017 was Mahtook’s peak. If Mahtook is not a starting caliber left fielder, the Tigers need to move on to Plan B.
If that does become the case, they have a few options.